We have yet to get through this weekend, and I am already looking ahead to the next weekend. I absolutely cannot help it! The Sunshine Millions series is shaping up to be a good one this year, and I am crushed that I probably will not be able to get down to Florida to watch the action first-hand. Since I will not be able to be there, I am going to do the next best thing: write about it until then and probably even for a few days afterwards. It sounds a bit excessive, but, when you think about, it really is not since there are so many stories involved in the event. With that being said, it was hard to pick a beginning point, but I ultimately decided to go with perhaps the most captivating story of them all: the undefeated run of Awesome Feather
Awesome Feather (Awesome of Course—Precious Feather, by Gone West) captured the hearts of racing fans in 2010 when, in her debut year, she strung together six consecutive races en route to winning both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
and the Eclipse Award for Champion 2-YO Filly. From there, we all know the story. Awesome Feather was sold and then found to have a tendon injury which kept her off the track for eleven months. The owners of Stronach Stables
could easily have chosen to retire the filly rather than patiently wait for her to be healthy enough to return to racing. They did not retire her, though, and she kept the undefeated dream alive when she trounced the fields of both the Le Slew Stakes
and the G1 Gazelle Stakes
. For those of you keeping count, that makes eight consecutive wins.
Awesome Feather’s record speaks for itself, but there is one glaring flaw. Awesome Feather has yet to defeat a quality field. Yes, she has two G1 victories to her name, but the only fillies she has beaten that were of any consequence were R Heat Lightning, A Z Warrior, and Joyful Victory. R Heat Lightning and A Z Warrior are Grade 1 winners, and Joyful Victory is a Grade 2 winner and Grade 1 placed. There are a few other fillies, such as R Gypsy Gold, that are graded stakes placed, but R Heat Lightning, A Z Warrior, and Joyful Victory are the biggest names. So the question remains. Can Awesome Feather defeat a field loaded with talent?
Fortunately for her, that question will not truly be tested in the Sunshine Millions Distaff
at Gulfstream Park
. The race closed with 12 nominations. Aside from Awesome Feather, the nominees are: Briecat, Delightful Mary, Hooh Why, May Day Rose, My Pal Chrisy, Perfect Embrace, Sweet Repent, Tiz the Argument, Tourmaline, Trip for A. J., and Twelve Twenty Two. Let’s take a look at what the rest of the field has accomplished. Briecat
is a Grade 2 winner and Grade 1 placed. Delightful Mary
is Grade 1 placed on the basis of her 3rd place finish behind Awesome Feather in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Hooh Why
is a Grade 1 winner but has not been competitive in graded stakes races recently. May Day Rose
is a Grade 3 winner, and My Pal Chrisy
is Grade 3 placed and a non-graded stakes race winner. Perfect Embrace
has not even started in a stakes race, and Sweet Repent
, a Grade 3 winner, won the 2010 edition of the Sunshine Millions Distaff. Tiz the Argument
, and Twelve Twenty Two
are all non-graded stakes winners, and Trip for A. J.
is Grade 3 placed and the defending winner of the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf.
The field is certainly not loaded with top talent, but it would be unwise for Awesome Feather’s connections to become complacent. There are some fillies that could snatch the race right out from under the filly’s nose. Zipse at the Track’s
Brian Zipse and I recently collaborated on a Point/Counterpoint in which we debated on who would have the better year in 2012, Awesome Feather or Awesome Maria. I argued in favor of Awesome Feather, and a couple of the points I made apply to the Distaff. She is versatile and already proven at a mile and an eighth. This will only be her third race after returning from her injury, and, though she will be stepping down from a Grade 1 race, she will be stepping up in terms of competition. The SM Distaff will be a good springboard for future races against stronger competition. This year’s Distaff division is loaded, and Awesome Feather will need to be ready to face the likes of Havre de Grace
, Royal Delta
, Awesome Maria
, Plum Pretty
, and It’s Tricky
, none of which should be taken lightly on the track. Yes, the SM Distaff will be a good stepping stone for moving the filly onward and upward in the quest to prove just how good she is. But for now, she looks well on her way to win number nine.
Cartoon by Marcy Leonard